Note:  Do not rely on this information. It is very old.


Cossacks (Kozaks, Kazaks). The Turkish word Kazak, meaning robber, marauder, was originally applied to any predatory peoples, as to the Circassians in the 10th century, and still to the Kirghiz Nomads of West Siberia. Bands of Kazaks (pronounced Kossak in Russian) begin to be heard of on the Lower Don about 1520, and soon after are found established about the rapids of the Dnieper, hence known as Zaporogues ("beyond the Falls") by the Russians. Originally Tatars, they were soon joined by such numbers of Poles and Little Russians that the Tatar element became completely absorbed in the Slav, and all the populations now known as Cossacks are essentially Russians in features, language, religion, and national sentiment. The Zaporogues long served as a rampart against the Mohammedan Tatars, who still held the Crimea and the northern shores of the Black Sea. They first received a regular military organisation under a hetman or ataman (German hauptmann, headman) from the Polish king, Stephen Batori (1575-87), and their settlements now gradually spread to the Don, the Sea of Azov, and the Kuban Valley, whence the "Don Cossacks" and the "Black Sea Cossacks" (Chernomorskii) of Russian history. Later their outposts appeared in the Terek valley, on the Lower Volga, and in the Ural Mountains, and it was the Cossack Yermak who overthrew the Tatar kingdom of Sibir (Siberia), and overran a great part of that region before the close of the 16th century. The Cossack military organisation has been carefully preserved and improved by the Russian government, and for the last hundred years utilised especially in border warfare and in advancing the frontiers of the empire towards China, Persia, and Turkey. At present the Cossack communities (Don, Black Sea, Volga, Orenburg, Urals, Siberia) have a collective population of about 2,000,000, of whom all the men between 18 and 50 are held to military service, exclusively as cavalry, receiving in return free grants of lands and other privileges.